‘Tis the season to start conjuring up deliciously spiced dishes using seasonal ingredients and I can’t think of a nicer way to start than with a healthy dessert, or breakfast if you choose! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love poached spiced mulled wine pears at this time of year, except maybe children! My kids have always loved the smell of mulled wine pears poaching in the kitchen but never wanted to try them as “Oh Mummy there’s alcohol in them!” Shock, horror. So I wanted to make a child friendly version, which I have to say is just as good as the alcohol one!
The mixture of the cranberry juice with the spices makes it taste as good as mulled wine and with fresh cranberries added, then crushed, turns the poaching juice into a tasty thick sauce which can be drizzled over the top of the pears. Add a dollop of cream and you have a perfect Christmas dessert, without the guilt. Of course there’s nothing stopping you adding a little port to the sauce, after the kids are served!
The pears taste light and sweet but with the slightly tart, rich, decadent sauce it will take pride of place on the table at any party this Christmas. Every year I buy bucket loads of fresh cranberries and pop them into my freezer so I can use them anytime. When I think of making a dessert with cranberries I run to the supermarket only to find they are sold out or haven’t even come in yet. Like many people, I like to make some Christmas inspired dishes before 1st December to make Christmas last as long as possible. They freeze beautifully and when defrosted don’t lose their shape.
As you probably know cranberries are extremely good for you. They are also sometimes referred as bounce berries because the seeds can actually bounce! Cranberries are very low in calories, high in fibre and Vitamin C. They contain antioxidant pigments which give them their deep red colour. While originally used for medicinal purposes rather than diet, cranberries are now widely used to protect against urinary tract infections and other illnesses.
These cranberry poached pears are delicious for dessert or breakfast. You can serve them up with some pear and cranberry bircher muesli which gives you that Christmas feeling from dawn to dusk. Make sure to serve them on a pretty looking dish. My dish today was a made by my Auntie Irene who is a fantastic Irish potter. How lucky am I!
Here’s what you need to make this lovely recipe.
- 4 cups unsweetened cranberry juice
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 star anise
- 2 cloves
- 3 juniper berries
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Peel from 1 orange or 2 whole dried oranges
- 100g fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 sachet mulled wine spices, optional for extra spice
- 6-8 pears
- Place the cranberry juice, orange juice, honey and spices in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Heat until the honey has dissolved.
- Peel the pears, cut a small piece at the bottom of the pear to level the pear so it can stand up when served. Leave the stalks on the pears.
- Place the pears in the poaching liquid and simmer for 30 minutes, turning regularly, until just tender but not too soft.
- Remove the pears with a slotted spoon and set aside until serving. These can be kept in an oven on a very low heat (120˚C) to keep warm.
- Bring the poaching liquid to the boil then simmer for a further 20-30 minutes until reduced by half.
- Remove the spices and orange. Remove half the whole cranberries and add to the pears.
- Mash the remaining cranberries in the poaching liquid to make a thick sauce or blend in a food processor for a smoother sauce.
- Serve warm over the pears. Serve with whipped orange mascarpone or cream.
And More: Add 2 tablespoons of port when the sauce has reduced, to add a bit of extra punch!